The Party Ends but the UK Monarchy Looks to the Future

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (3rd L) stands on Buckingham Palace balcony with (From L) Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Britain's Prince George of Cambridge, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Britain's Prince Louis of Cambridge at the end of the Platinum Pageant in London on June 5, 2022 as part of Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee celebrations. (AFP)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (3rd L) stands on Buckingham Palace balcony with (From L) Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Britain's Prince George of Cambridge, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Britain's Prince Louis of Cambridge at the end of the Platinum Pageant in London on June 5, 2022 as part of Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee celebrations. (AFP)
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The Party Ends but the UK Monarchy Looks to the Future

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (3rd L) stands on Buckingham Palace balcony with (From L) Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Britain's Prince George of Cambridge, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Britain's Prince Louis of Cambridge at the end of the Platinum Pageant in London on June 5, 2022 as part of Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee celebrations. (AFP)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (3rd L) stands on Buckingham Palace balcony with (From L) Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Britain's Prince George of Cambridge, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Britain's Prince Louis of Cambridge at the end of the Platinum Pageant in London on June 5, 2022 as part of Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee celebrations. (AFP)

Extinguish the beacons, take down the stage, roll up the bunting. The party’s over.

After four days of parades, street parties and a gala concert celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne, the Platinum Jubilee celebrations ended Sunday with a queen's wave from Buckingham Palace and the crowds outside singing "God Save the Queen."

But as the tributes to Elizabeth's lifetime of service begin to fade, Britain is left with the reality that the second Elizabethan age is in its twilight.

The 96-year-old monarch, limited in recent months by what the palace calls "episodic mobility issues," made only three brief public appearances during the Jubilee. Her son and heir, 73-year-old Prince Charles, stood in for her at other events.

"Inevitably, we’re going to lose her sometime. And so this will have been a sort of a tail end of a golden reign, won’t it?" historian and royal biographer Hugo Vickers told The Associated Press. "That’s why it’s got a little bit of hint of sadness, I find."

That truth was the subtext of the weekend’s events as newspapers, TV screens and even the walls of the palace were filled with images of Elizabeth changing from a glamorous young queen in crown and diamonds to a global grandmother known for her omnipresent handbag and love of horses and corgis.

Elizabeth is the UK’s longest-serving monarch, the only sovereign most people have ever known.

That longevity has bred a deep affection for the queen. The question for the House of Windsor is whether the public will transfer those feelings to Charles when the time comes.

From the opening military review to the closing pageant outside the palace, the royal family sought to build a case for that continuity, underscoring the monarchy’s historic traditions and its role as a unifying institution that helps the country celebrate its successes and provides comfort during times of sorrow.

Charles was front and center throughout as he stood in for his mother.

Wearing a ceremonial scarlet tunic and bearskin hat, he reviewed the troops during the Queen’s Birthday Parade on Thursday. The next day, he was the last guest to enter St. Paul’s Cathedral and took his seat at the front of the church for a service of thanksgiving in honor of the queen. At Saturday’s star-studded concert in front of Buckingham Palace, he delivered the main tribute to the woman he addressed as, "Your Majesty, mummy."

The royals know they have work to do. Over the past year, the monarchy has been buffeted by allegations of racism and bullying, a sex scandal involving Prince Andrew and demands that they apologize for Britain’s historic role in the enslavement of millions of Africans.

But if the Windsors wanted proof of the enduring popularity of all things royal, they need look no further than the tens of thousands who crammed the streets and parks around Buckingham Palace to cheer, wave the Union flag and say "Thank you, ma’am" over the past four days.

Demonstrations of public support are crucial to the monarchy’s survival, said royal historian Ed Owens.

"The Jubilee is defined not simply by the presence of the queen, but by many various other actors, and one of the key actors … is the British public," said Owens, author of "The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public 1932-1953." "All these events are playing to the British public ... the jubilee is as much a celebration of the British people in the British nation as it is the queen herself."

Since assuming the throne after the death of her father on Feb. 6, 1952, Elizabeth has been a symbol of stability as Britain negotiated the end of empire, the dawn of the information age and the mass migration that transformed the country into a multicultural society.

Throughout it all the queen has built a bond with the nation through a seemingly endless series of public appearance as she opened libraries, dedicated hospitals and bestowed honors on deserving citizens.

Actor and writer Stephen Fry captured this lifetime of service, carried out far away from the glittering state occasions and military parades that rivet the media’s attention, as he delivered his own tribute during Saturday evening's Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace.

"How many local sewage works has her majesty opened with a bright smile? How many plaques unveiled? How many trees planted? How many ribbons cut, ships launched?" Fry asked, drawing a chuckle from the crowd. "How many prime ministers tolerated? For that alone, no admiration is high enough."

While they would have like to see more of the queen, fans like Anne Middleton, 61, seemed to understand the limitations of her health issues.

Middleton, a human resources executive, traveled to London from her home in Wales for the long holiday weekend. Wearing red, white and blue nail polish and a dress covered in the Union and Welsh flags, she and her friends watched Saturday’s concert from camp chairs in St. James’s Park.

"We wanted to turn out and let her know that we’re there for her, too," Middleton said. "Because she’s always been there for us."

The queen’s public appearances during the Jubilee were brief but symbolic, underscoring three pillars of her reign: a personal bond with the public, strong links to the armed forces and support for the Commonwealth, a group of 54 nations with former colonial ties to Britain.

On Thursday afternoon she joined other senior members of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a flypast by 70 military aircraft and wave to supporters who filled the street below. Later, she took part in a beacon lighting ceremony at Windsor Palace, the culmination of event that spanned the Commonwealth.

The weekend concluded with another balcony appearance for the cheering crowds, this time accompanied only by Prince Charles and his wife and Prince William and his wife and children.

The message couldn’t have been clearer: Here is the present and the future of the monarchy.

Robert Lacey, a royal historian and adviser to the Netflix series "The Crown," believes the royal family’s connection to the British public will endure.

"There is a magic about royalty. If you don’t care to accept it, that’s up to you," he said.

"But for many Brits, the magic moment (is) when the queen or Prince Charles … turn up in your neighborhood," he said. "You are touched with a magic - which is no longer divine, but which represents the community - which says, ’You matter and you’re part of a bigger picture, a society, a community.'"



EU Pledges 3.5 Bln Euros to Protect the Ocean

In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, medical staff in a dinghy leaves from the Aegean Sea island of Milos to Sikinos island, Greece. (AP)
In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, medical staff in a dinghy leaves from the Aegean Sea island of Milos to Sikinos island, Greece. (AP)
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EU Pledges 3.5 Bln Euros to Protect the Ocean

In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, medical staff in a dinghy leaves from the Aegean Sea island of Milos to Sikinos island, Greece. (AP)
In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, medical staff in a dinghy leaves from the Aegean Sea island of Milos to Sikinos island, Greece. (AP)

The European Union will spend 3.5 billion euros ($3.71 billion) to protect the ocean and promote sustainability through a series of initiatives this year, the EU's top environment official said on Tuesday.

The EU's 40 commitments, announced during the annual "Our Ocean" conference held in Athens this week, range from fighting marine pollution to supporting sustainable fisheries and investments in the so-called blue economy - sustainable use of marine and freshwater resources for economic activity.

"The ocean is part of who we are, and it is our shared responsibility," said EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius.

The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said last month that ocean temperatures hit a record high in February, according to data that goes back to 1979. Overfishing and plastic pollution are also major threats to oceans.

The biggest part of the EU funds will be used to support 14 investments and one reform in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Other EU initiatives are directed to helping African countries develop their blue economy.

In total, more than 400 new commitments amounting to $10 billion will be announced during the conference, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Greece will spend 780 million euros on 21 commitments which include a ban on bottom trawling in all of the country's marine protected areas, he added.

The country also pledged to create two more marine parks, one in the Aegean Sea for the protection of seabirds and one in the Ionian Sea for the protection of sea mammals, which will cover more than 4,000 square kilometers of areas protected under the EU's Natura 2000 network of sites.

"Mitigation and adaptation are not enough. We must also focus on protection and restoration to insulate land and seas from harmful human activity and to give space to nature to heal," said Mitsotakis.

The marine park in the Aegean Sea has irritated neighboring Türkiye, which said last week that it was not willing to accept a possible "fait accompli on geographical features whose status is disputed". In response, Greece accused Türkiye of "politicizing a purely environmental issue".

Environmental groups have also urged Greece to halt its gas exploration plans in the Ionian Sea.

The "Our Ocean" conference has mobilized more than 2,160 commitments worth approximately $130 billion since its launch in 2014.


King Salman Science Oasis Marks World Quantum Day

The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery.
The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery.
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King Salman Science Oasis Marks World Quantum Day

The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery.
The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery.

The King Salman Science Oasis will participate in celebrating World Quantum Day.

The event is organized by the Saudi Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR), affiliated with the World Economic Forum.
The celebration of the oasis comes within its objectives to spread applied sciences and support innovation. This event aligns with the Kingdom's Vision 2030, emphasizing distinguished education for future generations, promoting scientific culture, and environmental awareness, SPA reported.

The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery, which aligns with the vision in applied sciences, modern technology, and continuous education to develop a conscious and forward-looking society.


Arab Group Concerned with International Environmental Agreements Holds Meeting in Cairo

A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
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Arab Group Concerned with International Environmental Agreements Holds Meeting in Cairo

A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)

The 22nd meeting of the Arab Group concerned with International Environmental Agreements to Combat Desertification and Biodiversity began at the headquarters of the Arab League's Secretariat General.

It is taking place under the chairmanship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Representatives of several Arab countries have participated as well.
The Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture for Agriculture for International Affairs and Climate, Abdu Al-Sharif, represented the Kingdom at the meeting, SPA reported.
The Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Meteorology at the Arab League, Dr. Mahmoud Fathallah, illustrated that the meeting would discuss several items.


Tanomah Waterfalls Draw Nature Enthusiasts

Photo by SPA
Photo by SPA
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Tanomah Waterfalls Draw Nature Enthusiasts

Photo by SPA
Photo by SPA

Following heavy rainfalls, Tanomah Governorate's cascading waterfalls have become a magnet for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts.
Captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the cloudy skies painted with a mesmerizing rainbow framing the cascading waters, visitors have flocked to capture the scene, SPA reported.
Photographers captured on film the dynamic flow of the waterfalls at various locations, particularly in the village of Al-Dahna and the Mana'a Mountains. The resulting panoramic images showcase the beauty, purity, and freshness of the water.
Hikers, meanwhile, have eagerly explored the valley peripheries, and witnessed the torrents cascading down from the mountaintops.
Adding to the visual splendor are the verdant landscape, flourishing forests and terraced farms draped in a vibrant green.
The recent downpours have caused the valley dams to overflow, further enriching the scene. Breathtaking vistas, coupled with the fragrance of aromatic plants like jasmine, mint, basil, rosemary, and wormwood that blanket the fields, mountains, and valleys, created an unforgettable experience for visitors.


Heavy Storms Soak Gulf as Oman Toll Rises to 18

Cars are parked at a flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Reuters)
Cars are parked at a flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Reuters)
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Heavy Storms Soak Gulf as Oman Toll Rises to 18

Cars are parked at a flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Reuters)
Cars are parked at a flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Reuters)

Torrential rains and high winds lashed parts of the Gulf on Tuesday as the death toll from storms in Oman rose to 18, many of them children.

Flights were cancelled in Dubai, the region's financial hub, while schools were shut in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  

Flooding hit many areas of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, and cut off major roads, snarling traffic and leaving cars stranded.  

Dubai's skies, usually electric blue and cloudless, darkened to night-like conditions in mid-afternoon as a second storm front blew in.  

The storms were expected to continue on Wednesday, UAE's National Center of Meteorology said.  

Some inland areas of the desert country recorded more than 80 millimeters (3.2 inches) of rain, approaching the annual average of about 100 mm.  

The weather board "urged residents to take all the precautions... and to stay away from areas of flooding and water accumulation" in a post on X, formerly Twitter.  

A total of 17 inbound and outbound flights were cancelled during the morning and three were diverted, Dubai Airports said in a statement.  

Bahrain was also hit by heavy rain and flooding after being pummeled by thunder and lightning overnight.  

The storms descended on the UAE, Bahrain and areas of Qatar after passing over Oman, where they caused deadly floods and left dozens stranded.  

A child's body was recovered on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 18 with two people missing, emergency authorities told the official Oman News Agency.  

Nine schoolchildren and three adults died when their vehicles were swept away in flash floods, the news agency reported on Sunday.


Aid Brings a Gaza Bakery Back to Life

 A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Aid Brings a Gaza Bakery Back to Life

 A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

A bakery in Gaza City has started operating for the first time in six months with aid from the World Food Program (WFP), providing desperately needed food in a part of the territory where a UN-backed report has warned of imminent famine.

Abdelrahman al-Jadba, clutching a bag of freshly baked loaves, said he felt a sense of relief that he'd be able to feed his children, describing how he had been forced to give them bread made from flour mixed with sand.

"We pray to God that this continues," he said.

Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip has turned much of the territory into a wasteland with an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe since October, when the armed group Hamas ignited war by storming southern Israel.

Israel has faced increased international pressure to let more aid into the Gaza Strip since it targeted an aid convoy on April 1, killing international relief workers.

The WFP said it has been using a new coordinated route to get aid to north Gaza, where it had delivered more than 1,300 metric tons of food parcels and wheat flour through nine convoys.

"On Saturday, WFP successfully delivered fuel enough for 4-5 days and wheat flour to a bakery in Gaza City to produce 14,000 bread parcels daily, the first delivery since the start of the war," a WFP spokesperson said.

"Deliveries will need to be repeated regularly, the plan is to reach an additional three bakeries in Gaza City next."

Israel, which denies hindering humanitarian relief to Gaza, has said that aid is moving into Gaza more quickly. But the amount is disputed and the United Nations says it is still much less than the bare minimum to meet humanitarian needs.

Bakery worker Motaz Ajour said his bakery had been out of action for 170 days until receiving WFP aid.

"A huge number of people are outside waiting in line and we hope to God that there will be other bakeries that will help us in north of Gaza," he said.

Aid agencies have complained that Israel is not ensuring enough access for food, medicine and other needed humanitarian supplies, and the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accused Israel in March of using starvation as a weapon of war.

Israel has blamed delays on aid getting into Gaza on the United Nations, which it has said is inefficient. It said convoys started going into northern Gaza from Thursday using a new crossing point it set up. It was not clear if the WFP convoys were using that route.

According to the union of bakery owners in Gaza, there were 140 bakeries operating in Gaza before the war, many of which had been bombed and destroyed. All bakeries in northern Gaza had stopped functioning.

Al-Jadba said the bag of bread he had bought cost 5 shekels ($1.35). Ten days ago, it would have cost him 20 times that amount, he said.

"Our feelings after bread became available: it brought some sense of relief to be able to feed these children, fill the hunger and be able to move on to the next day and maybe, God willing, bring more," he said.


Greece to Spend 780 Mln Euros to Protect Marine Biodiversity, Says PM

Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
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Greece to Spend 780 Mln Euros to Protect Marine Biodiversity, Says PM

Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)

Greece is pushing ahead with 21 initiatives worth 780 million euros ($830.9 million) to protect marine biodiversity and tackle coastal pollution, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday ahead of an international conference.

Greece, which includes thousands of islands and which has the longest Mediterranean coastline of any littoral state, said last week it plans to create two marine parks, one in the Ionian Sea and one in the Aegean Sea, as part of the initiatives.

"Quietly but methodically, Greece is playing a leading role in the defense against dramatic climate changes, which are proven to affect every region and every activity," Mitsotakis said in an article published in Kathimerini newspaper.

Greece plans to present its national strategy on marine biodiversity protection at the "Our Ocean" conference, which Athens will host this year and which will be attended by about 120 countries.

More than 400 new commitments amounting to $10 billion will be announced during the conference, said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said last month that ocean temperatures hit a record high in February, in a dataset that goes back to 1979. Overfishing and plastic pollution are also major threats to oceans.

Plastics entering the world's oceans could nearly triple by 2040 if no further action is taken, research has shown.

Greece wants to reduce plastic litter in the water by 50% and microplastics by 30% by 2030, the government official said.

The Greek marine parks, whose boundaries will be defined after scientific research by early 2025, will cover 32% of Greece's waters, Mitsotakis said. Greece has legislated the expansion of marine protected areas to 30% of its territorial waters by 2030.

The plan for a marine park in the Aegean Sea has irritated neighboring Türkiye, which said last week that it was not willing to accept a possible "fait accompli on geographical features whose status is disputed". In response, Greece accused Türkiye of "politicizing a purely environmental issue".

NATO allies Greece and Türkiye have long been at odds over a range of issues including maritime boundaries and claims over their continental shelves in the Mediterranean.

Mitsotakis said other initiatives underway include campaigns to curb plastic pollution, constructing charging stations at 12 ports for electric vessels and setting up a monitoring system for protected marine areas because fishing practices that damage the seabed will be banned. Greece wants to ban bottom trawling in all marine protected areas by 2030, the official said.


Russian Ballet Shows in South Korea Cancelled for a Second Time

Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Russian Ballet Shows in South Korea Cancelled for a Second Time

Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)

A ballet show in South Korea featuring principal dancers from Russia's Bolshoi Ballet was cancelled a day before opening night, the organizer said on Monday, amid tensions between Seoul and Moscow over Ukraine and North Korea.

The last-minute cancellation came after Seoul performances of a ballet starring Svetlana Zakharova, a Ukrainian-born Russian prima ballerina and a vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were called off in March.

The Russian embassy in South Korea expressed "deep regret" over the latest cancellation.

"We can't help but notice that South Korea is now showing a certain tendency in its approach to cooperation with Russia in the cultural field as well," the embassy said on its social media account.

"We will have no choice but to consider this."

South Korea has joined Western economic sanctions on Russia, suspended transactions with Russian institutions, and regulated the exports of some strategic items, including electronics and semiconductors, in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Seoul and Moscow have also clashed over Seoul's decision to impose sanctions against Russian individuals and entities which it said were carrying military cargo to North Korea or were linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

The performances, due to take place from Tuesday to Thursday, initially featured 12 principal performers from the Bolshoi Ballet at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul.

The program was then modified to reduce the number of Russian performers with changed content.

However, the show's organizer on Monday announced the cancellation on social media, saying the alterations to the show's cast and program were not accepted by the concert hall.


The World’s Coral Reefs Are Bleaching. What Does That Mean?

This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
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The World’s Coral Reefs Are Bleaching. What Does That Mean?

This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)

Huge stretches of coral reef around the world are turning a ghostly white this year amid record warm ocean temperatures.

On Monday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the world's fourth mass global bleaching event is underway - with serious consequences for marine life and for the people and economies that rely on reefs.

Here's how warming affects coral reefs and what the future might hold for these fragile underwater ecosystems.

WHAT ARE CORALS?

Corals are invertebrates that live in colonies. Their calcium carbonate secretions form hard and protective scaffolding that serves as a home to many colorful species of single-celled algae.

The two organisms have evolved over millennia to work together, with corals providing shelter to algae, while the algae remove coral waste compounds and deliver energy and oxygen back to their hosts.

WHY DO CORALS MATTER?

Coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, but have out-sized benefits for marine ecosystems and economies.

A quarter of marine life will depend on reefs for shelter, finding food or spawning at some point in their lives and coastal fisheries would struggle without corals.

Every year, reefs provide about $2.7 trillion in goods and services, from tourism to coastal protection, according to a 2020 estimate by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. About $36 billion is generated by snorkeling and scuba diving tourists alone.

Coral reefs also help coastal communities by forming a protective barrier against storm surges and large waves. This helps to avoid property damage for more than 5 million people worldwide, a 2022 study in the journal Marine Policy found.

WHAT IS CORAL BLEACHING?

When water temperatures rise, jewel-toned corals get stressed. They cope by expelling their algae — causing them to turn bone white.

Most corals live in shallow waters, where climate-driven warming is most pronounced.

Whether a coral becomes heat-stressed depends on how long the high temperatures last, and how much warmer they are than usual.

Scientists have found that corals generally begin to bleach when surrounding waters are at least 1 degree Celsius warmer than the maximum average temperature - or the peak of what corals are used to - and persist for four or more weeks.

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH OCEAN TEMPERATURES THIS YEAR?

This year has seen an explosive and sustained bout of ocean heat as the planet deals with the effects of both climate change and an El Nino climate pattern, which yields warmer seas.

In March, global average sea surface temperature (SST) reached a record monthly high of 21.07C (69.93F), according to the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service.

"There's been a pretty large step change in the global average SST this year," said Neal Cantin, a coral biologist with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences. "We're certainly in a new regime. Corals clearly aren't keeping up".

As the El Nino weakens, scientists say some of that ocean heat should diminish. But overall ocean warming will continue as climate change intensifies.

DO ALL BLEACHED CORALS DIE?

Corals can survive a bleaching event if the surrounding waters cool and algae return.

Scientists at the Palau International Coral Reef Center estimate that it takes at least nine to 12 years for coral reefs to fully recover from mass bleaching events, according to research published in 2019.

Disruptions such as cyclones or pollution can slow the recovery.

"Bleaching is like a fever in humans," said ecologist David Obura, director of Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean East Africa. "We get a fever to resist a disease, and if the disease is not too much, we recover. But if it is too much, we die as a result."

Scientists caution that corals this year have faced harsher and more prolonged high temperatures than ever before.

"What is happening is new for us, and to science," said Lorenzo Alvarez-Filip, a coral reef ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. "We cannot yet predict how severely stressed corals will do even when they survive the stress event, or how coral recovery will operate."

WHAT HAPPENS TO DEAD CORALS?

Dead reefs can still offer shelter to fish or provide a storm barrier over several years for coastal communities.

But eventually, these underwater graveyards of calcium carbonate skeletons will erode and break apart.

"It might take 10, even 20 years to see these consequences," Alvarez-Filip said.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP SAVE REEFS?

The best chance for coral survival is for the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change.

Many scientists think that at just 1.2C of warming above preindustrial level, the world has already passed a key threshold for coral reef survival. They expect between 70% and 90% of the world's coral reefs will be lost.

Scientists and conservationists are scrambling to intervene.

Local communities have cleanup programs to remove litter from the reefs to reduce further stresses. And scientists are breeding corals in labs with the hopes of restoring degraded reefs.

However, none of this is likely to work to protect today's corals from warming waters. Scientists are therefore trying to plan for the future by bringing coral larvae into cryopreservation banks, and breeding corals with more resilient traits.

Obura said that while it's important that scientists investigate such interventions, breeding genetically engineered corals is not the answer to climate change. "We have to be very careful about stating that it's the solution and that it's saving corals reefs now," he said.

"Until we reduce carbon emissions, they won't save coral reefs."


'From Gaza With Love': Palestinian Saint Levant Rouses Coachella

Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella © VALERIE MACON / AFP
Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella © VALERIE MACON / AFP
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'From Gaza With Love': Palestinian Saint Levant Rouses Coachella

Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella © VALERIE MACON / AFP
Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella © VALERIE MACON / AFP

Saint Levant, the Palestinian-French-Algerian-Serbian rapper who's found viral fame online, made his Coachella debut over the weekend, bringing eminently danceable beats and Palestinian solidarity to the stage.

The 23-year-old played a set scheduled for a time conflicting with the highly anticipated No Doubt reunion but still packed the desert festival's Gobi Tent, where he played both his hits and newer work to a sea of fans, many sporting keffiyehs and waving Palestinian flags.

"There's so many people we wanted to see at the same time -- but this was a hundred percent where we were coming," Mustafa Arch, a 32-year-old Syrian-Lebanese festival-goer, told AFP after the set.

"Free Palestine -- we're so happy to be here, this is probably the best day of the weekend for us. We'll continue to represent the whole weekend," Arch said.

Some 1.5 million people have taken refuge in the southern city of Rafah, according to the United Nations, which says Israel is blocking food aid convoys as a famine looms.

"Coachella, my name is Saint Levant and I was born in Jerusalem and raised in Gaza," the artist told the crowd to cheers. "As I hope all of you are aware, the people of Gaza have been undergoing a brutal, brutal genocide for the past six months. And the people of Palestine have been undergoing a brutal occupation for the past 75 years."

"It's not just me on the stage -- it's the whole Arab world on the stage."

The artist born Marwan Abdelhamid spent many of his childhood years living in the Gaza Strip.

In 2007 he and his family fled to Jordan, where he lived for approximately a decade before moving to California, where he is now based in Los Angeles.

Saint Levant's trilingual rap track "Very Few Friends" went viral after he released it in November 2022, and 2023's "From Gaza With Love" has also found a growing fanbase.

During Saturday's set he performed the new works "Deira" and "5am in Paris;" he released the latter just a few days ago.

"It's about exile," he told his Coachella audience.

"A feeling that us Palestinians know a bit too well."

The artist said he would also soon release a broader project called "Deira," named after a hotel built by his father which was bombed in recent months.

Speaking to AFP after the set, 43-year-old Yara Brenton called it "incredible" to see a fellow Palestinian onstage.

Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella.

"I remember coming to Coachella ages ago, there was nothing like this. I never saw myself represented in anything popular," said Brenton. "It means a lot, and it means a lot to see so many younger people enthusiastic about it too."

She voiced praise that Saint Levant was outspoken about the Palestinian cause onstage, saying that "a few years ago, this wouldn't have been okay."

"There are a lot more people who know about Palestine" today, Brenton said.

"And there's no going back, I think, from this awareness."